‘This is real, America’: Jacob Blake’s family make emotional call for change following police shooting

Lawyer says 29-year-old will need ‘miracle’ to walk again

Andrew Buncombe
Tuesday 25 August 2020 18:08
Jacob Blake Sr speaks to reporters after son shot by police
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The family of Jacob Blake has made an emotional demand for racial justice in the nation, declaring: “This is real, America.”

As it was revealed the 29-year-old had suffered severe injuries to his spinal cord and may never walk again, relatives of the young man demanded action against the Wisconsin police officer who shot him seven times.

They also called on citizens in the country to reflect on the moment and to let it drive forward the campaign for meaningful change.

“They shot my son seven times, seven times, like he didn’t matter,” said Mr Blake’s father, who is also named Jacob Blake. “He’s a human being and he matters.”

Police officers outside the Kenosha County Courthouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin (Getty)

One of the family’s lawyers, Ben Crump, an attorney who is also representing the relatives of George Floyd, who was killed by police in Minneapolis in May, ran through a list of names of young black American men and women who had lost their lives in similar circumstances.

“This is real, America. I know a lot of you are watching it on television in the abstract, but for black America this is our reality,” he said.

Mr Blake was shot in the back by police officers in Kenosha, 40 miles south of Milwaukee, who were responding to reports of a domestic dispute. Video captured at the scene showed a white officer shooting Mr Blake several times as he climbed into his car. The young man’s three sons were in the back of the vehicle at the time, and witnessed what happened. It later emerged a total of seven shots were fired at point blank range.

The incident triggered widespread anger and protests, which turned violent, having been largely peaceful.

On Tuesday, Mr Blake’s mother, Julia Jackson, said her son would not approve of the damage.

Police fire tear gas in second night of unrest in Wisconsin

“If Jacob knew what was going on he would be very unpleased. So I’m really asking and encouraging everyone in Wisconsin and abroad to take a moment and examine your heart,” Ms Jackson said.

She said when she visited her son in the hospital, he apologised when he learned he may be paralysed, saying he did not want to be “a burden”. He also requested a police officer in the room to join them in prayer.

“We need healing. I also have been praying, even before this, for the healing of our country,” she said.

Mr Crump said doctors had told the family they were concerned about the young man getting infected, and were obliged to carry out further surgery on Tuesday.

“The medical diagnosis right now is that he is paralysed and because those bullets severed his spinal cord and shattered some of his vertebrae … it is going to take a miracle for Jacob Blake Jr to ever walk again,” he said. “He is currently in surgery as we speak, still struggling to sustain his life and to hopefully become some resemblance of the man he once was.”

Another lawyer, B’Ivory LaMarr, said: “How many more examples of police brutality do we need to effectuate change? How many more? Heaven is full to its capacity with victims who have been taken by law enforcement.”

Wisconsin governor Tony Evers called for calm, while also saying the National Guard presence would be doubled in Kenosha.

“We cannot allow the cycle of systemic racism and injustice to continue,” said Mr Evers, a Democrat, who is facing mounting pressure from Republicans over his handling of the unrest. “We also cannot continue going down this path of damage and destruction.”

Mr Blake’s mother said she had initially not been able to see her son in his hospital bed. When she did speak to him, she said, he was not aware what was going on.

“The first thing he did when he looked at me was he cried, and then began to say ‘I’m sorry about all of this’,” she said.

“I asked him ‘Jacob did you shoot yourself in the back’. He looked at me and he said ‘I don’t want to be a burden on anybody. I want to be with my children. And I don’t think I’m going walk again mom’.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press

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